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Works (?) Thomas Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner after (?) John Robert Cozens

Tivoli: The Grand Cascade Seen from a Terrace

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0576: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Tivoli: The Grand Cascade Seen from a Terrace, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on paper, 28 × 35.5 cm, 11 × 14 in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's (All Rights Reserved)

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Tivoli: The Grand Cascade Seen from a Terrace
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
28 × 35.5 cm, 11 × 14 in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: The Roman Campagna; Waterfall Scenery

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


J & W Vokins; Sir Donald Currie (1825–1909) (Armstrong, 1902); then by descent; Sotheby's, 14 June 2001, lot 15 as 'Falls of the Anio at Tivoli' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by a UK private collector, £25,800


Armstrong, 1902, p.280 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This watercolour showing the spectacular falls of the river Aniene at Tivoli displays many of the signs that mark the unique collaboration between Girtin and his contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) at the home of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833). Here they were employed across three winters, probably between 1794 and 1797, to make ‘finished drawings’ from the ‘Copies’ of the ‘outlines or unfinished drawings of Cozens’ and other artists, amateur and professional, either from Monro’s collection or lent for the purpose. As the two young artists later recalled, Girtin generally ‘drew in outlines and Turner washed in the effects’. ‘They went at 6 and staid till Ten’, and, as the diarist Joseph Farington (1747–1821) reported, Turner received ‘3s. 6d each night’, though ‘Girtin did not say what He had’ (Farington, Diary, 12 November 1798).1 The need to work by candlelight may account for the generally monochrome appearance of the Monro School works, though, as here, the smaller examples tend to be more colourful and highly finished.

The Falls of Tivoli

As with many of the Monro School drawings of scenes in the Roman Campagna, it has not been possible to trace the precise source for this work, but it is likely to have been made from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) and, more specifically, from sketches and tracings that he made during or after his stay in Italy from November 1776 through to March 1779. Seven large sketches by Cozens of some of the most popular sites in Tivoli are contained in an album in the Sir John Soane’s Museum, London, including views of the so-called Temple of the Sibyl (see TG0589 figure 1), the monumental building known as the Villa of Maecenas (see TG0592 figure 2) and another view of the cascades (see TG0578 figure 1), and a similar drawing is the likely source for this work too. The close-up view of the Grand Cascade as it descends from amongst the buildings of the hilltop town of Tivoli was a popular subject with Cozens’ contemporaries, including Francis Towne (1739–1816) and John ‘Warwick’ Smith (1749–1831) (see figure 1). Following the example of the seventeenth-century landscape artist Gaspard Dughet (1615–75), they adopted an upright format more suited to the precipitous descent of the falls into the gorge of the Aniene than the composition copied here, which gives an uncharacteristic prominence to some of the town’s least distinguished buildings. As modern visitors to Tivoli can attest, the falls, which were such an important part of the town’s visual appeal, are sadly no longer visible from Cozens’ viewpoint. The course of the Aniene was diverted to avoid the town following destructive floods in 1826, and the river now descends in a single mass away to the north east at the Villa Gregoriana.

There has been a tendency to ascribe the more colourful and highly finished Monro School landscapes solely to Turner, not least because any underlying pencil drawing is often effaced. This work has always been attributed to Turner, but arguably there is just enough pencil work still evident in the buildings in the middle ground to suggest that Girtin was involved in its production. The fact that the colouring is more substantial than was commonly the case, and includes a subtle evocation of light catching falling water, does not mean that the composition did not start out as a simple outline drawing by Girtin. Certainly, there is no clear evidence that Turner was also responsible for the pencil work, and there is therefore no reason to doubt the statement about the division of labour at Monro’s house that the two artists themselves made to Farington in 1798.

by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 The full diary entry, giving crucial details of the artists’ work at Monro’s house, is transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1798 – Item 2).

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